Lincoln Kennedy: Manziel not Ready for NFL

The NFL Draft is three weeks away, and the question being posed nationwide around water coolers and message boards involves Texas A&M's Johnny Manziel. If you're a team needing a QB, do you risk a high first rounder on the fleet-footed and undersized playmaker who won the Heisman Trophy as a freshman?

"Absolutely not," says former All-Pro lineman Lincoln Kennedy.

Kennedy, who was recently nominated for the College Football Hall of Fame for his playing days as a Washington Husky, works as a personality for Fox Sports Radio and as part of the Oakland Raiders broadcast team. He was asked to elaborate on Manziel.

"Teddy Bridgewater is the most pro-ready quarterback to play right now," Kennedy said. ""When you take a player in the top 10 of the draft, you're saying he's ready to play in the National Football League right now.

"I know what Johnny Manziel brings to the table," he said. "I know he's Mr. Excitement and it's hard to take your eyes off him. But I also know that the NFL is full of structure. What I mean is that you need to corral that free spirited play that you've seen in their past. Remember when Michael Vick first came to Atlanta? Yes they were winning football games, but Michael VIck could never finish a season because he was always broken up. I equate that with what I've seen with Johnny Manziel. Yes, he can run around and make plays and win games. But how will he be in the long run? Will he need to change his game like Michael Vick, Dante Culpepper and other mobile QBs did when they first arrived in the NFL?"

For such a violent sport, there is irony that the most immobile players like Tom Brady and Peyton Manning rarely miss games to injury. As Kennedy theorized, it's not about the X's and O's, but rather the dollars and cents.  

"You look at the rules created to protect those guys," Kennedy said. "The reason why the NFL adopted all these rules of creating a strike zone (of hitting the quarterback) without saying they created a strike zone, is because those are the breadwinners. Those are your big names. Those are your stars.

"So your Peyton Mannings, your Drew Brees, yours Tom Bradys, you stand up in the pocket, you deliver the ball down the field and that helps fantasy numbers and it helps generate excitement. That helps win football games and people will love you. But if you want to run around and get broken up and the next week you're on the sideline with an injury, that does nothing for us. That doesn't generate as much interest. It's all about the zeros, it's all about the money.

"So to put it in perspective about Manziel, is he going to be exciting? Yes. But someone is going to overpay for him because I don't think he's ready for the structure of the NFL. I don't think he's NFL-ready to play right now. But someone is going to spend for him, and someone is going try to make him into something he's not."

Speaking of quarterbacks being made into something they're not, Kennedy was asked about former Husky Jake Locker. Were the Tennessee Titans gravely mistaken to draft Locker with the #8 pick overall in the 2011 NFL Draft?

"Absolutely," he said. "And until Jake shows me otherwise, he might be one of these men who played amongst boys in college like Tim Tebow did, but that doesn't mean he's going to translate into a great NFL quarterback.

"I can see that Jake is still trying to find himself," Kennedy said. "But it's the same thing. Somebody overpaid for Jake and we're now 3-4 years later down the road. He's still trying to find himself and see if he's got a starting spot. He hasn't been able to stay on the field healthy.  These are the things I think about when I see a QB running around on the football field.

"The NFL is a big step and it's a hard business," Kennedy said. "Some guys will make it, some will excel, and some will fade into the darkness. There is no one scenario for everyone. For all we know, Johnny Manziel might become a great All-Pro quarterback and one of the great stars of the NFL.

"But right now, he's too much of a gamble for me."